Staying true to their bare-bones aesthetic, the NAD T585 bears the same charcoal grey colour scheme the company has had for the last 20-odd years. Looking at this player you wouldn't guess that it's worth AU$1,500, but NAD's idea is that you pay for the electronics and not "increasingly expensive faceplates". This philosophy should appeal to most, but you can call us shallow when we say that we prefer the extra effort that companies such as Marantz put into their cosmetics.
Even though it may be plain, it's not unattractive, and is quite solidly constructed to boot. The company has certainly gone out of their way for the player to be as functional, as well. For example, unlike other players with simple media controls, the NAD includes most of the remote's functions on the front panel -- so losing the control isn't such a big deal. For added resistance to vibration the T585 sits on chunky rubber feet.
While we'd hesitate to call the DVD player ugly the remote is definitely so. But it's sensibly arranged and includes automation-friendly touches like dedicated On and Off buttons. There's also a 12V trigger jack at the rear for this purpose.
There's not much this player doesn't do -- apart from play Blu-ray or HD-DVD, of course. You get DVD-Audio/Video, SACD, CD, HDCD and MP3 playback.
The NAD also comes with a full complement of outputs including component, HDMI and even a VGA output.
The T585 also upscales your discs, with the aid of the Faroudja DCDi chipset, to high definition via the HDMI output -- but only to a maximum of 1080i. This will be sufficient for most people, as we've found that 720p is usually gives the most effective results anyway. Unlike some other competitors, the device will also provide upscaling over the component output, but only for NTSC discs -- not PAL.
Like many new DVD players, the NAD comes without region encoding. However, it's simple to change the region in the set-up menu if you want to change this for any reason.
Unlike the competing Marantz player the NAD won't do CD text, which makes navigating MP3 files and folders a little tougher. Also missing from the specs list is DiVx compatibility -- if watching overseas TV shows is a priority you may need to look elsewhere.
For fans of multichannel music you'll be pleased to hear that the T585 doesn't down-convert SACD's SD format into CD's PCM format, which means that listeners should get a better standard of reproduction.
One feature we found quite adorable -- but maybe less so if, like some of us, you have slovenly CD habits -- the T585's screen will come up with a message saying, "Error: Disc minor -- clean me", if you input a grotty disc.
We're not kidding ourselves: the people who buy this player will undoubtedly use it in the main for movies. It's definitely a movie player first, but it has a lot of musical touches which ensure it will replay your tunes in a way you have never heard before.
As a video player, it's top notch. We span an exhaustive collection of movies through the NAD from King Kong to Blade II and, especially when upscaled to 720p, the results were excellent. As we've seen with other players, colours and contrast are especially impressive through HDMI -- good though the component reproduction was. In all instances, natural colours, assured movement handling, and plenty of picture detail abounded. On the audio side, dialogue and sound effects were equally adroit.
Our only qualm with the T585's picture handling was that it wasn't the best we've seen for the money. For instance, some colour gradations, such as shadows in the corners of rooms, had a slight tendency for colour noise -- instead of brown or grey shadows you'd also see blue or red streaks as well. This just isn't the case with the equally priced Marantz DV7001 which has very few video flaws to speak of.
Music reproduction, though, was every bit the equal of the Marantz, with crystal-clear treble response and an expressive mid-range. Only when it came to reproducing bass was the NAD a little less emphatic and authoritative than its competitor.
Listen to Nick Cave's ode to peeping toms (Hiding All Away) from the Abattoir Blues album and the benefits of a high end player become evident -- especially when compared to the ever-popular MP3 format. Details which hide in the muck on an iPod, or even a budget DVD player, become ever clearer on the T585 -- you'll hear touches and subtleties you've never heard before.
The NAD T585 is quite a quirky player, and though the menu system and playback are straightforward and easy to use, some functions will only work after reading the manual, or trial-and-error -- whichever comes first.
For example, the player will only apply progressive-scan to the component output when the HDMI output is enabled -- which is very unusual. If you turn HDMI off you only get 576i. In addition, you can only enable one or the other of VGA and HDMI -- you can't have both.
Another setting that needed attention was that you need to select the "192kHz" setting for HDMI audio -- especially when listening to DVD-Audio disks via the stereo out. Until we did this the sound was a little too harsh on the already blink-inducing Metallica album. As a result, the sound became more natural and forceful at the same time.
In conclusion, the NAD T585 is a very good player with some features you just won't find on other, more "cosmetically" minded devices. Yet despite this, the flashy Marantz is simply the better player.